Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported, which means we earn commissions from some links on Pet Chao. Commissions do not affect our editorial evaluations or opinions.

Top 10 Tips on How to Stop a Dog From Leash Pulling

Ah, leash reactivity! I can say this behavior is as common as it is frustrating. Training a dog that pulls on the leash is crucial for happy walking, turning what might feel like a tug-of-war into a pleasant stroll with your four-legged companion. Whether your pup is a seasoned puller or you’re just starting to notice the behavior, I’ve got 10 outstanding tips on how to stop a dog from leash pulling that help transform them into a well-behaved walking buddy. So, let’s dive in and make those daily walks a pleasure for both of you.

Why do dogs pull on the leash?

There are several reasons why dogs pull on the leash, and understanding them is important for tackling the issue effectively.

1. Excitement and curiosity

The world is a fascinating place for canine noses and ears. Every walk promises new smells, sights, and sounds. So, your dog naturally wants to explore them all. This excitement translates into pulling as they try to get ahead of you and lead the way.

2. Reinforcement history

Remember when your dog pulled, and you followed their direction to sniff that attractive bush? Even unintentional rewards like this can reinforce pulling behavior. Conversely, if you’ve always pulled back when they pull, they might see it as a game of tug-of-war, making them pull even harder.

3. Breed and natural instincts

Certain breeds, like Terriers and Huskies, are bred for pulling, so it’s ingrained in their nature. Likewise, many dogs have strong hunting instincts that can kick in during walks, making them want to chase squirrels or birds they spot.

4. Lack of training

how to break food aggression in dogs

Simply put, a dog who hasn’t been taught loose-leash walking skills will likely pull. Without guidance, they don’t understand that walking calmly beside you is the desired behavior.

5. Underlying anxieties or medical issues

In some cases, pulling can stem from anxieties like fear of new environments or separation anxiety. Additionally, physical discomfort from pain or illness might also cause dogs to pull on the leash.

10 tips on how to stop a dog from leash pulling

1. Start with basic obedience training

Before tackling the leash issue, you should spend some quality indoor time with your furry friend! Mastering basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “come” isn’t just about tricks; it’s laying the groundwork for a well-mannered walk. For example, when your leash reactive dog understands “sit,” you can easily redirect their attention away from distractions.

Consistent indoor practice translates to smoother communication on walks, giving you the upper hand in managing leash reactivity. Remember, a dog who respects your commands trusts your leadership, making them more receptive to your guidance during strolls. So, get ready to build a rock-solid foundation of obedience—it’s the first step to enjoying leash-free freedom!

2. Choose the right walking gear

Choosing the right tools for the job makes all the difference in stopping your leash reactive dog. Forget the choke chains and flimsy things because when it comes to training a dog that pulls on the leash, comfort and control are essential.

Harness: Ditch the collar and embrace the harness! Unlike collars that concentrate pressure on the sensitive neck, harnesses distribute it evenly across the chest, avoiding choking or discomfort. This is especially important for excitable pups who tend to lunge and pull. For maximum pulling mitigation, opt for a front-clip harness. This clever design gently steers your furry friend back towards you when they try to charge ahead, subtly reinforcing the message that staying close is the key to having fun.

Leash length: Short and sweet is the mantra for ideal leashes. Think 6 feet of sturdy, comfortable material. This manageable length keeps your dog within close range, making guiding and redirecting their attention easier. You know what? Long leashes are practically invitations to practice the forbidden art of pulling, so keep things close and controlled for a smoother, more enjoyable walk for both of you. 

3. Start indoors

Before hitting the pavement, take your leash-training adventure inside! Your living room, a familiar haven free from distracting squirrels and tempting lampposts, is the perfect training ground. Think of it as boot camp for happy feet. Here, you can focus on rewarding your pup’s good leash manners without the outside world’s sensory overload.

Start with short bursts of practice. Clip on the leash, grab a pocketful of yummy treats, and let the games begin! With your dog standing, calmly say “heel” and gently guide them alongside you. When they keep the leash loose and walk at your side, shower them with praise and a tasty treat. Remember, consistency is key! Repeat this simple exercise in different directions, rewarding progress along the way. Soon, your living room will transform into a joyful parade of good leash habits, laying the foundation for smooth strolls in the great outdoors.

4. Tire them out

Just like you wouldn’t want to learn a new dance routine after a heavy meal, it’s difficult for a high-energy dog to learn how to walk calmly on a leash. To help your furry friend, try exercising them first to tire them out, like playing fetch, taking a quick walk around the block, or giving them a puzzle to solve. Doing this will make them more focused and calmer during the walk. It’s like exchanging unwanted pulling for playful puppy behavior, like pouncing and sniffing, as they explore with you.

5. Be the tree

When your dog starts to pull on the leash, don’t let yourself get pulled along like a tumbleweed. Instead, stop and stand still. Stay calm and avoid yelling or jerking the leash, as these reactions can actually encourage the pulling behavior. Just be patient and wait for your dog to calm down, like a strong tree that withstands a storm. 

Their natural instinct kicks in as they feel the tension on the leash (but not your anger!). They’ll likely look back at you, confused by the sudden halt. This is the moment of victory! When they take even a single step back towards you, letting the leash slacken, express a cheerful “Yes!” and shower them with praise and a well-deserved treat. It’s like sunshine breaking through the clouds, rewarding their good behavior, and reinforcing the message: walking nicely = happy times.

6. Use a clicker

how to stop a dog from leash pulling

Think of clicker training as adding a musical soundtrack to your leash-training lessons! This handy tool, a small device that emits a distinct clicking sound, can be your secret weapon in transforming your pup from a puller to a pawsitive walking pro.

The magic of the clicker lies in its precision and clarity. Unlike verbal praise, which can sometimes lag behind the desired behavior, the click happens right when your dog gets it right. This immediate association between good leash manners and the rewarding click-treat combo creates a powerful learning experience.

For instance, your dog walking calmly at your side, the leash pleasantly slack. At that precise moment, you click! This tiny click will mark the exact behavior you want to encourage. Follow it up with immediate praise and a tasty treat.

7. Reward loose leash walking

Carry a pouch brimming with your dog’s favorite treats (think bite-sized, high-value pieces that pack a punch of excitement). As they walk at your side, leash pleasantly loose, unleash a shower of praise, “Good boy/girl!” or “Yes!” followed by a delicious treat.

Think of it as popcorn for their soul—tiny seeds of happiness bursting with positive reinforcement. Each treat becomes a stepping stone on the path to loose-leash walking, making it the most desirable way to explore the world.

Recommended online class: The Loose Leash Walking Bundle

8. Change directions

You’re strolling through the park with your furry friend, enjoying the sunshine and a pleasant conversation. Suddenly, a squirrel emerges from its leafy haven, throwing your canine companion into a leash reactive dog. What do you do? 

You can use a simple technique called the “redirection turn.” To do this, simply turn around 180 degrees, which will snap your dog out of their distraction and refocus their attention back on you. It’s like pressing a mental reset button for them.

9. Stay Calm and assertive

Let’s unpack this concept:

Calmness: When you exhibit frustration or anxiety through tense vocalizations or jerky movements, you heighten your dog’s emotional state. This can fuel their excitement and exacerbate pulling behavior. Conversely, maintaining a calm demeanor promotes a sense of stability and predictability, allowing them to focus on your cues and instructions.

Assertiveness: While remaining calm, it’s crucial to project clear leadership. This does not imply aggression or force but rather a firm and consistent approach. Use specific verbal commands like “heel” or “let’s go” in a controlled, confident tone. 

10. Seek professional help if needed

Unique tricks to teach your dog

If you’re struggling with your dog’s persistent leash pulling, don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional dog trainer. Here are some reasons why it’s a good idea:

    • Personalized assessment: Trainers can observe your dog’s unique characteristics and environment to find the root cause of the pulling behavior.
    • Targeted training techniques: A trainer can equip you with personalized strategies to address your dog’s specific tendencies.
    • Confidence and consistency: Learning from a professional can boost your confidence and provide consistent support to implement the recommended training methods effectively.
    • Address underlying issues: In some cases, leash reactivity might be a symptom of more profound anxieties or behavioral issues. A trainer can identify these concerns and offer training or strategies to address them, improving your dog’s overall well-being.

Beyond traditional in-person consultations, you can also explore online resources like the “Loose Leash Walking Bundle” course offered by SpiritDog Training. This online bundle provides video lessons, downloadable resources, and community support, offering a flexible and convenient alternative for busy dog owners.

Harnesses and Leashes that stop dogs from pulling

Depending on your dog’s needs and temperament, some leashes can be more helpful. Here are the most popular options on Amazon with their pros and cons:

1. Front-clip harness

These attach the leash to the front of the chest instead of the back, gently steering your dog towards you when they pull. 

Great for excitable dogs who tend to lunge, but not ideal for powerful pullers as it can redirect their force into their shoulders.

    • Pros: Discourages pulling, good for lunging dogs, comfortable for most dogs.
    • Cons: Not ideal for powerful pullers, can chafe underarms on some dogs.
    • Recommendation on Amazon: PetSafe Easy Walk Dog Harness

2. Head halter

This collar loops around the dog’s snout and connects to the leash beneath their chin. 

Offers precise control but can be uncomfortable or intimidating for some dogs, so proper introduction and positive reinforcement are crucial.

    • Pros: Excellent for strong pullers, offers precise control.
    • Cons: Can be uncomfortable or intimidating for some dogs, requires careful introduction and training.
    • Recommendation on Amazon: Gentle Leader Adjustable Head Collar

3. Double-handled leash

This leash gives you more control as you can hold it near your waist and, at the end, closer to your dog. 

Useful for unpredictable or reactive dogs but not ideal for long walks as it can be tiring to hold.

    • Pros: Good for unpredictable or reactive dogs, offers more control.
    • Cons: Not ideal for long walks, can be tiring to hold.
    • Recommendation on Amazon: Kruz Double Dog Coupler

How long does it take to train a dog not to pull?

Is an Akita a good family dog

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how long it takes to train a dog not to pull. It depends on several factors, including:

Here’s a rough estimate based on my experience:

    • Mild pulling: For a well-behaved dog with mild pulling, consistent training with positive reinforcement could see noticeable improvement within 1-2 weeks, with significant progress within a month.
    • Moderate pulling: A dog with moderate pulling may take 2-3 months to show consistent improvement, depending on their individual characteristics and your training commitment.
    • Severe pulling: If your dog is a strong puller or has ingrained bad habits, it could take 3-6 months or even longer to achieve consistent loose-leash walking.

Remember: These are just estimates, and it’s crucial to be patient and consistent with your training. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. Celebrate small victories and focus on the progress your dog makes, no matter how slow it may seem.

If you want the most comprehensive approach

For further training and an all-in-one solution for most behavior problems your dog has now or may have in the future, check out this free online dog training workshop that improves dog-owner relationships and prevents poor behavior like: 

    • Barking
    • Accidents
    • Leash pulling
    • Not coming when called
    • Jumping on people
    • Running out the door
    • Chasing cars or animals
    • Chewing
    • Nipping or biting
    • Begging
    • Getting too excited
    • Ignoring commands

The workshop is conducted by Dr. Alexa Diaz, Ph.D., one of the most respected service dog trainers in the United States, and Eric Presnall, host of the Animal Planet TV show “Who Let the Dogs Out.” It has made life easier for many dog owners. Click here to get it.

About us: Pet Chao is a community for Asian dog breed enthusiasts. Our goal is to keep you and your four-legged friend healthy and happy by providing valuable resources and fostering a like-minded community.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *